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Swelling on dog's face.

Species: Dog
Breed: boxer
Age: 5-8 years

Hi the right side of my 6 year old boxer boy's face has swelled up - looks like he has a mango attached to the side of his face, he is tired and doesn't want to eat - very unusual for him. He is breathing ok, his stats are fine - breathing, pulse and capillary refill all in normal range. It started while we were out on a walk - I saw no evidence that anything bit him or that he got stung by any nettles or plants. Over the past 2 weeks, his left eye has swollen up 2-3 times as well, usually in the evening but it is back to normal the next morning - is there any connection do you think? Nothing in his environment has changed nor his diet so allergies can be overruled too. Thanks for any help.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Thanks for your question Stephanie!

This is a tough question to answer without seeing your boy, but I'll give you my thoughts on his situation.

If this had just happened I would be wondering if it was an allergic reaction to a bee or wasp sting. However, if this were the case it would certainly be better by now (2 weeks later).

The most common reason for a dog to have a swelling on one side of the face like this is a dental problem. He may have something called a carnassial tooth abscess. The carnassial tooth is the largest tooth that you can see in the mouth. The root of this tooth pushes up below the eye. So, if there is an infection in the root of the carnassial tooth we will often see severe swelling below the eye and often around the eye as well. I have seen some that come and go like you described. My guess for these is that the pus in the abscess drains out at some point in the day.

Sometimes it can be really obvious when you look at the tooth that it is abscessed - the gum will be red and if you push on it you will see pus (and it is painful). But, it is not always obvious to tell from the outside.

If this is a carnassial tooth abscess the tooth will need to be extracted by your vet. Antibiotics will give some temporary relief but rarely solves the problem.

It is also possible that there is a foreign object under his skin causing an abscess (such as the nettles), but this is less likely to be the cause.

It does sound like Roddy will need to see his doctor soon. I hope everything is ok!

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Sorry should have explained the face swelling just came on today - about 8-10 hours ago. It seems to have gone down a little - like 20 percent as the day has gone on, but it is as if the swelling has dropped down to under the side of his chin, it's really weird. I can poke it and prod it and he doesn't flinch or seem bothered.

The eye swelling has happened 2-3 times over the past 2 weeks. He had a dental in Jan but I guess 4 months on something could have happened to him. Thanks for your speedy reply.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

You're very welcome. (I should let you know that I bent the rules for you a little bit. My free questions for website owners aren't really supposed to be for forum links. But I figured this would be an easy question for me to answer, so I let it slide. :) )

I still think a dental problem is most likely. If it's happened a few times over the last 2 weeks then it's quite unlikely that there were several insect stings.

If it is an insect sting it will respond to benadryl. Benadryl tablets come in a 25 mg strength and you can give 1mg per pound. (So, if you have a 50 lb dog you can give 2 tablets). There's no harm in doing this (other than possibly some mild sedation). But, I would definitely recommend a vet visit in the morning if things haven't cleared up 100%.

Customer reply:

Oh I am sorry, I didn't realise forums weren't acceptable, thank you so much for replying anyway. I will leave your link on there anyway as you have been kind enough to reply to me.

If he is not back to normal tomorrow I will take him to my vet without question. Being a boxer, things like mast cell tumours worry me so much and they can come on just as quickly too. Thanks so much again.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

No worries! The link thing is just something new that I am trying out, so I'm still working out the bugs.

What you are describing doesn't sound like a mast cell tumor, but then this is one of the risks of talking to a vet online. I might feel differently if I was looking at Roddy's face.

Again, I hope things go ok!

Dr. Marie.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.